Monday 26 June 2017

Serial burglar who held elderly couple hostage had been sentenced to 144 years in prison throughout criminal career, court told

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Stock picture

Sonya McClean

A serial burglar who regularly targets pensioners' homes has been sentenced to a total of 144 years in prison over the course of his criminal career, a court has heard.

Anthony Connors (41) is due to be sentenced for his last burglary next month after he held an elderly couple hostage in their apartment while demanding cash from them.

Connors held a broom handle that had a jagged edge to the face of artist Noel Lewis (81), threatened to stab him and demanded money from him. He got into the flat through an open back door as the couple were airing the place out.

Connors has 48 previous convictions which include 14 for robbery, 12 for burglary and other aggravated burglary charges. He has been sentenced to over 144 years in jail, though many of these prison terms would have been served concurrently.

Garda Niall Murray said all of Connors' robberies and burglaries, apart from one, involved raiding the homes of elderly people. He said the average age of his victims was 74 years old, with one man being 100 years old.

Connors had been allowed out on bail in May 2016 for residential drug treatment and gardaí were to be notified if he left. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest on June 21, 2016, the same day he burgled the home of Mr Lewis and his partner and fellow artist Dympna O'Halloran (56).

Connors of Richmond Street, Dublin 2, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to aggravated burglary, false imprisonment of Mr Lewis and making a threat to Ms O'Halloran that he would burn their flat on June 21, 2016.

Gda Murray told Ms Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting that during the one hour ordeal Connors continually demanded cash from the couple after taking over €170 from them. He told them they must have” a nest egg somewhere” or “be saving money for a rainy day”.

The court also heard that Mr Lewis was sitting on the couch at 9pm that evening reading when he suddenly felt a hand around his throat and Connors was in front of him threatening him with the broom handle.

He handed over €20 from his wallet when it was demanded of him. He described Connors as “speaking very softly but aggressively”.

Connors told the couple he “had mates waiting outside” and told Ms O'Halloran that he would set the apartment on fire.

Connors then went through Ms O'Halloran's handbag and took €150 from it.

He became more aggressive and demanded more cash. He told the couple they would “get off light” if they co-operated. He searched their bedroom, a desk and cupboards in their sitting room before again riffling through Ms O'Halloran's handbag.

The couple told him they had no money or jewellery in their home before Connors took the tablet. He put on a pair of gloves and threatened to set the apartment on fire after taking a lighter from Ms O'Halloran's bag.

Ms McGowan said Mr Lewis became extremely afraid as he felt the whole situation was very unpredictable. It was then that he got the opportunity to attack Connors as the burglar was searching on the ground trying to find the broom handle he had earlier used as a weapon.

Ms McGowan said towards the end of the incident Mr Lewis grabbed a heavy battery pack and “belted” Connors across the head with it leaving him stunned. Connors turned to the man and said to him “that's a helluva a bang you gave me. I'm going to get you one back.”

He then moved into the kitchen but was swaying on his feet. Mr Lewis presumed he was going to get a knife but instead Connors took a distinctive shirt belonging to the man and left, warning the couple not to alert the gardaí for ten minutes.

Gda Murray said Connors was captured on CCTV footage from the area leaving a lane near the couple's home carrying a bag Ms O'Halloran said he had taken from their home. His DNA was also found in a glove he had left behind.

Gda Murray said Connors stole a tablet that contained a massive body of Ms O'Halloran's work, including material for a website. She felt that she was unable to continue with her art because of the loss of this irreplaceable work.

A victim impact report from Mr Lewis said he felt “fear, anger and frustration” . He woke up with nightmares and had problems sleeping and had a lack of confidence going out in public.

Ms O'Halloran's victim impact report said she was disorientated in her thinking and actions and suffered frequent short term memory loss after the burglary. She suffered loss of sleep and nightmares.

The couple no longer felt they were able to the leave the door of the apartment open to control the damp problem. They said the apartment had become “toxic” as a result and they were concerned about their health.

Gda Murray arrested Connors the following day when he spotted him in Dublin city centre wearing the distinctive shirt he had stolen from Mr Lewis. He made no admissions in interview.

Mark Lynam BL, defending said his client, having considered the victim impact reports, was shocked, ashamed and “experienced repulsion in relation to his actions”.

Counsel accepted that the main concern of the court would to protect the public but also to ensure Connors' rehabilitation.

Mr Lynam said Connors had spent most of the previous 25 years in jail, mostly in isolation for his own protection as his fellow inmates were aware that he had mainly targeted elderly people in their homes.

Judge Elma Sheahan said she needed time to consider the case and remanded Connors in continuing custody until April 7, next.

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